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Schwarz, Heinrich

    Full Name: Schwarz, Heinrich

    Other Names:

    • Heinrich Schwarz

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 09 November 1894

    Date Died: 20 September 1974

    Place Born: Prague, Praha, Hlavní Město, Czech Republic

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): graphic arts, graphic design, and photographs


    Early historian of photography; scholar of graphics in general. He was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, (present-day Prague, Czech Republic). Schwarz graduated from the Akademisches Gymnasium in Vienna with an Abitur in 1913. He entered the university in Vienna studying art history, archaeology and philosophy. At the outbreak of World War I, Schwarz served in the Austrian miliary, 1914, assigned to the field artillery. He resumed his studies in 1919, writing a dissertation on the beginning of lithography in Vienna, under the “Vienna School” scholar Max Dvořák, though his degree came after Dvořák’s death in 1921. He worked as a volunteer at the Albertina Museum print collection, 1921-1923. Still unsalaried, he was promoted to a scholar research assistant from 1923 to 1927. That year, 1927 he accepted a position as curator at the Austrian Gallery, “Baroque Museum” (Belvedere) in the 19th-century gallery under F. M. Haberditzl. Schwarz was responsible for many exhibitions on 19th-century art at the museum, which opened in 1929, foreign exhibitions, as well as the 1934 Venice Biennale. Though Schwarz’ field of study was graphics in general, his early interest in photography as an art medium made him a pioneer in the field. He was the first to write (in 1931) on the photographer David Octavius Hill. The annexation of Austria by the Nazis in 1938 meant that Schwarz, a Roman Catholic of Jewish decent, could no longer work in national museums. Schwarz sold part of his personal library to move to Sweden the same year. He immigrated to the United States in 1940 working as a research assistant at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY. Schwarz received financial living assistance from Eddie Warburg, an arts benefactor, amateur art historians and nephew of art historian Aby M. Warburg. In 1943 he was appointed curator for painting, drawing and prints at the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. He married in 1948, remaining at RISD until 1953.

    After two years as a visiting professor, 1954-1956, at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, he taught as professor there 1956-1962 and as the curator of the Davidson Art Center Collection (the latter through 1972). Schwarz lectured at visiting professor at Columbia University between 1966 and 1968 as a replacement for Julius S. Held. He retired emeritus in 1972. “Schwarz was a pioneer of the study of photography’s historical evolution and development and its relationship with the traditional pictorial arts. He proposed that photography benefited from the ‘inner-preparedness’ it had been given by the fact that the ‘fixed viewpoint had become the alpha and omega of the aesthetic credo.” (Hamber). Beaumont Newhall characterized Schwarz’s book on Hill as one where the author recognized and treated Hill as an artist who “happened to use a camera.” (Wendland).

    At Wesleyan he demonstrated his exceptional connoisseurship of the entire history of graphic art through brilliant acquisitions, many of undervalued artists such as Hendrick Goltzius.  He discovered a rare Goya lithograph portrait in the stacks of the university library.  A warmth of character, particularly in his seminars launched three students on notable careers: Alan Shestack (1938- 2020), Ellen “Puffin” Gates D’Oench (1930-2009) and John T. Spike (b.1951).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Die Anfänge der Lithographie in Wien. Vienna, 1921, published in an altered form in Graphische Künste; [collected essays:] Art and Photography: Forerunners and Influences: Selected Essays. Layton, UT: G. M. Smith/Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1985; Salzburg und das Salzkammergut: eine künstlerische Entdeckung in hundert Bildern des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Vienna: A. Schroll, 1926; David Octavius Hill: der Meister der Photographie. Leipzig: Insel, 1931, English, David Octavius Hill, Master of Photography. New York:The Viking Press, 1931; Galerie des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts im Oberen Belvedere. Vienna: A. Schroll, 1937.


    Parker, William. “Introduction.” Schwarz, Heinrich. Art and Photography: Forerunners and Influences: Selected Essays. Layton, UT: G. M. Smith/Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1985; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 353-355; Hamber, Anthony J. “A Higher Branch of the Art”: Photographing the Fine Arts in England, 1839-1880. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, 1996, pp. 23-24; Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 630-635; [obituaries:] “Heinrich Schwarz, Ex-Curator, Wesleyan Art Professor, Dead.” New York Times September 22, 1974, p. 57; Weltkunst 22 (1974): 2050.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Schwarz, Heinrich." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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